Traditionally, new year's is a time for setting personal goals. But if you’re running a business, it’s also a good time to determine where to focus your team’s efforts in the next 12 months. One particularly worthy endeavor? Improve your customer service. Good customer service boosts retention, reduces customer acquisition costs, and provides a powerful ally to your marketing strategy.
Here are 20 ideas for leveling up your customer service in 2020:
1. Improve how you measure customer service
One of the most common questions about customer service is on how to measure its success and value to your business. There are many ways to do this. Whether it’s through familiar systems such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), or through tracking business metrics such as customer renewals and churn rates, determine which metric matters most to you and create a plan to start measuring it.
2. Speed up response times
When customers have problems, they want answers — fast. Much faster than ever before. Average response times differ depending on the customer support channel (e.g. email, phone, social media, or live chat). But across the board, faster is better. While the average response time for companies on Facebook is one day, three hours, and 47 minutes, 85% of customers on Facebook expect a response from companies within six hours. A great place to start? Aim to get your social media responses out quicker than average.
3. Be an accountability partner with your customer
Proactive customer support leads to higher retention and lower churn rates, so adopt a consulting mindset with your customers. Become their accountability partner. Understand what their goals are with your product or service, and manage them through to completion. For example, if you know your customers purchased your services with the aim of increasing sales by 10% month over month, yet they aren’t using key features that would help them do that, check-in and get them on a plan to product adoption.
4. Make it easy for customers to get in touch
Savvy businesses know that making customer support easily accessible helps create a better customer experience. Many businesses take this to mean adding more customer support channels to their repertoire, but that’s not always the answer. Most importantly — make sure you’re on the right channels at the right time. One channel to consider adding to your list? Live chat. Biking distributor HLC used live chat to provide a better online customer experience while improving visibility into customer issues.
5. Find ways to create an omnichannel customer experience
Omnichannel has become a popular marketing and customer service buzzword in recent years, but it’s not too complex to understand. Adopting an omnichannel strategy means making sure all your customer touchpoints are integrated to provide a seamless and consistent customer experience across all your channels — be it sales, marketing, or customer support. For example, Neiman Marcus employs an omnichannel strategy in its app. The app connects shoppers to sales associates through text messages, calls, emails, or FaceTime. Shoppers can also use it to check their points and view upcoming events or promotions.
Related: What is Omnichannel Marketing?
6. Develop a customer loyalty program
Customer loyalty breeds retention and revenue growth. It makes logical sense: the more your customers like you, the more likely they are to stay and grow with you. Brainstorm some ways to spark the fire of customer loyalty. Companies like Starbucks offer wildly popular rewards programs. If you go down this track, make sure the rewards offer real value to the customers.
7. Create a customer-centric culture
Creating a customer-centric culture doesn’t just depend on the customer support department, but it’s a great place to start. And the effort is well worth it. Customer-centric companies are more profitable and enjoy better work cultures. Some ideas to start cultivating a customer-centric culture include: rallying the entire team around a core customer statement, using technology to facilitate customer and staff relationships, and creating a customer-centric HR Department.
8. Track product usage metrics
Product usage metrics are an important indicator of which features serve which customers. They may also be helpful to your product development teams. If you don’t know your usage metrics, how are you supposed to know which features or services are tied to high-value customers, and which are not? Depending on the product or service you offer, product usage metrics may vary. These might include, for example, usage frequency, active users, and license utilization. Determine which product metrics matter most to you.
9. Build a customer survey strategy
Put your customers in the driver’s seat by surveying them regularly. Done properly, customer surveys are an excellent way to gain valuable information on how to improve your business processes across all departments. First, start by asking yourself: what am I trying to find out? Determine how you will measure your concepts, ensure accuracy, get team buy-in, and make sure you’re distributing your surveys optimally.
10. Consider billing for customer success
Some businesses sell premium customer success services (e.g. custom implementations and onboardings). Determine whether it makes sense for your business to do the same. This may not work for all of your accounts, it depends on your product or service and customer base, but it may make sense in some cases. If this is the first time your team is considering billing for customer success, start small. Mikael Blaisdell of the Customer Success Association suggests beginning with a limited group of customers and defining the plans and values.
11. Get creative with customer renewals and upsells
Customer renewals and expansions are huge business drivers that customer service teams can directly influence. If your team owns customer renewals, take a look at key triggering events that might lead to more renewals or upselling opportunities. For example, in the insurance industry, one way to improve customer renewals is through personalization and customization. Offer annual coverage reviews with a service representative the customer already knows, instead of getting them to call an 800 number for service.
12. Strengthen your customer onboarding
First impressions are powerful. A new customer’s onboarding period is an opportunity to cement a long-lasting relationship and increase customer lifetime value. Are there ways you can make your new customer onboarding more dynamic? Consider incorporating visual engagement tools such as cobrowsing. Cobrowsing is a permissions-based way to see and interact with a user’s web browser in real-time. It’s a great strategy for guiding new customers through a complex product online, and can be used across their journey with your business.
13. Invest in customer support automation
There are hundreds of customer service software available on the market, with immense capabilities to automate your business processes. Automation in customer support is often misconstrued as taking humanity out of the picture. But when used wisely, automation actually makes customer support faster, better, and more human. Consider tools such as chatbots in your online customer service strategy. Chatbots help automate answers to routine questions, speeding up resolution time and freeing up your human team to work on more human queries.
14. Get creative on social media
One of the best ways to humanize your brand and personalize your customer service is by providing conversational support on social media. If you’re already doing this, consider taking it up a notch by getting creative and proactive. If you aren’t, see if it makes sense to incorporate responses to customers on social media in your support strategy. The advantages are manifold: you can respond to customers in real-time, boost brand awareness, and get informal feedback about your products and services. You can also use a URL shortener like Rebrandly to brand the links you create and share on social media. This is a creative way to personalize your links and at the same time increase brand visibility by embedding your brand name into your links.
15. Implement a customer appreciation strategy
Every day is customer appreciation day. What can you do to show your customers that you care? Consider some of the traditional methods: offering attractive discounts on products and services, gifting customers freebies on their birthdays or other milestones, or even sending them some personalized correspondence.
16. Enable customer self-service
Customers want answers, but they also want to be able to get those answers on their own, without having to contact your customer support team. In fact, 67 percent of respondents in a Nuance Enterprise survey said they preferred self-service over speaking to a company representative. Make sure your company is set up to enable customers to help themselves. An example of self-serve in action? Most airlines today have options for customers to check-in, pay for baggage fees, and change seats all through kiosks and apps. On a website, self-help features might include having a readily accessible knowledge base, or a database of support and FAQ articles.
17. Resolve common support issues in real-time
Ticketing is a common way of systematically sorting through customer support requests, but it has its drawbacks: the biggest one being speed. Resolution and response times can easily lag, and sometimes requests could be resolved quickly without the need to file a ticket. Consider ways to offer customer support in real-time. Tools like live chat, chatbots, and cobrowsing enable customer support teams to jump on an issue in an instant.
18. Don’t forget the employee experience
It’s not all about metrics. Part of providing excellent customer service is motivating your team to greatness. Make sure your customer service team is constantly improving through regular training and invest in conferences and educational programs to help them grow. Nurture them to resolve customer conflicts better. Consider doing a weekly five-things activity, where you celebrate five acts of amazing customer service.
19. Make your customer service mobile-friendly
Customer support comes in many forms - email, chat, phone - but are all your channels mobile-friendly? Mobile devices accounted for 48 percent of web page views worldwide as of February 2019, according to Statista. Make sure your self-service sections (help articles and FAQs) are easily accessible on mobile. Offer customers the ability to send SMS messages for support. Use software and tools that your customer service teams can access via mobile, too.
20. Incorporate video in your customer communication
Personalized service keeps customers loyal. One tool to help you improve personalization is video. The use of video in customer support is a growing trend. Consider using video communication to send thank-you messages, showcase new products, and even run customer training.
There you have it: 20 ideas for you to improve customer support in 2020. Want to go in-depth on some of the above topics? Head on over to our ebooks and whitepapers for more educational resources on customer support.